Hampstead's finest: J Keats, J Constable, J Rotten

Richard Osley,Senay Boztas
Sunday 03 February 2008 01:00
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Keats wrote plaintive, romantic poetry in Hampstead, as his body weakened with TB. Constable captured the glorious heath in his brush-strokes and lies in a Hampstead churchyard today. Rightly, they have been honoured for their contributions to this much-feted part of London. Never mind that, here's the Sex Pistols.

It seems the punk pioneers honed their filth and fury in a squat in the genteel north-west London enclave where they rehearsed their controversial anti-royal song "God Save the Queen". Now the Heath and Hampstead Society's plaque committee is considering putting the anti-establishment punk band on an equal footing with these other English greats by bestowing its finest honour on the squat where Johnny Rotten et al lived as they rose to infamy and fortune.

The society has been restoring its 27 plaques, marking historically significant people and places. John Constable is having his plaque smartened up, while the house where Keats wrote "Ode to a Nightingale" is now a museum being restored with a Heritage Lottery grant.

Herbert Asquith, the great reforming Liberal prime minister, has a brand new plaque from the Heath and Hampstead Society, as do the writer George Orwell and Henry Cole, credited with the invention of the Christmas card.

Now the society has proposed adding some rather less establishment figures to the mix, starting with the Sex Pistols.

The Heath and Hampstead Society, which has run this commemorative scheme for two decades, has decided to ask members of the public for other suggestions for people who should be recognised. Three or four a year will be chosen by the committee, which includes historian Christopher Wade and Carol Seigel, the curator of Hampstead Museum, based at Burgh House.

The author of a blog on the society's website came up with the suggestion. Congratulating people for their work in renovating other plaques, the writer added: "Whilst we're on the subject I'd like to suggest we put up a plaque to celebrate the Hampstead residence of the Sex Pistols, who lived in a squat in New Court (off Flask Walk) in the 70s." He said the influence of the iconoclastic punk bands was still felt today.

"We rightly remember the mutinous Sir Harry Vane, whose plaque you can see on Rosslyn Hill opposite Willoughby Road, who was executed for treason in 1662. Why not remember the place where Johnny Rotten and the Pistols composed 'God Save the Queen'?"

Frank Harding, chairman of the committee, told the local Camden New Journal last week: "The only criteria are that the person should have made a positive contribution to the area and been dead for 20 years. We want to mark people who have made a contribution to Hampstead, the UK and society in general – and if the Sex Pistols have done that, they will be properly considered."

Sid Vicious, the band's troubled bass player, died in 1979, qualifying the group on the 20 year rule.

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